Keys to Grace Lutheran Church Given to 67 Disgruntled Members Per Judge's Order; Voting Rights of 1700 Grace Members Also Taken Away
(From Dean Kallenbach)
This morning, on advice of their attorneys, the leadership of Grace Lutheran Church followed yesterday's order by Circuit Court Judge Molly GaleWyrick and turned over the keys of the congregation to a representative of the attorney of the break-away group Amazing Grace at 11:27 this morning.
The congregation was originally planning to withhold the keys, even at the risk of jail, but their attorney Jay Heit advised that it would risk multiple contempt charges, and only delayed the inevitable. By turning over the keys, the duly-elected Grace leadership no longer faces risk of jail.
A group of two dozen people or so worked this morning to assemble a newsletter -- Pastor Irgens finished writing his comments at 4 a.m. today. I'll share those comments later in a separate email when time permits.
Members of the news media interviewed Pastor Irgens and Jay Heit, the attorney representing Grace (as opposed to the breakaway group). Some things overheard from those interviews:
Attorney Heit said "As of right now, we're out, they're in, with "they" referring to the 67 people represented by Amazing Grace. "We gave those keys away, and someday, we hope to get them back."
Both Heit and Pastor Irgens said Grace plans to file an appeal with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Pastor Irgens said "The (ELCA Northwest) Synod Council has no right to determine who is a member of Grace Lutheran Church. Membership can only be decided by the Grace Lutheran Church constitution." All of the members who did not join the breakaway group Amazing Grace are now considered to be associate members. Pastor Irgens estimated that number to be 1,700 people.
Pastor Irgens called the judge's decision "an affront to the judicial system."
Pastor Irgens pointed out that, despite the two-year court fight, Grace Lutheran has continued to grow in serving its mission and is financially sound. He said Grace's position has been one of standing by the Gospel.
"Do we believe Jesus Christ is just a symbol as the social statements (of the ELCA) say, or do we believe that he is the person and son of God? Times are changing. If the ELCA can seize property and give it to a schismatic group, they can do anything."
The individuals who have now been displaced as members of Grace Lutheran Church by the judge's ruling plan a meeting tonight at Faith Lutheran Mission Church in Eau Claire to decide next steps.
4/24/2013 07:45:44 am
what was this about? Removal from the ELCA? or what and which side won?
4/24/2013 11:24:04 am
The Episcopal Church has been winning these cases by saying they are a hierarchy. I am surprised so many congregations in ELCA waited so long to see the light. It was all in writing when the merger was formed.
4/24/2013 03:23:42 pm
What provision of the ELCA Constitution forbids congregations to have dual affiliation? And do the court records show that Judge Molley GaleWyrick ever asked the plaintiffs to provide documentation of such a provision?
4/24/2013 11:58:06 pm
Will the disciples of Judas open the doors of the church Sunday morning? Certainly, there must be events on their calendar involving AA or food drives, etc. for which the doors must be opened before Sunday morning. Perhaps they will say "we have no rostered clergy" and keep the doors shut Sunday morning. Perhaps they will open the doors and have a ELCA interim pastor preside at worship and preach a sarcastic sermon. If I were there, I'd refuse Holy Communion...
5/5/2013 06:06:55 pm
St. John L.C.,Summerfield, FL. Is going through precisely the same situation. Mr. Dick McClean, leader of a small minority has filed a lawsuit to gain control of the church property. The bishop of the FL-Ba synod defrocked our pastor who went through a divorce ( with an 11 member synod discip. hearing, not 12 as req) ignoring a nearly parallel situation involving a gay pastor and his partner that went unchallanged since 2002. Gay pastors were not sanctioned until 2009. He should have been removed but was not. A super majority of the congregation voted to retain our pastor, who became rostered with the ELCM, and we dual affiliated as did Grace. The suit has not gone before the judge yet, but soon I believe. Another interesting thing I noticed is that Grace has a $26 million endowment, St. John sits on a $2 million lakeside property. Of the hundreds of churches leaving the ELCA those with large assets seem to be targets to keep them in the fold or take their church.
5/7/2013 02:39:55 am
The article is very unclear.....who exactly won? Is the breakaway group the faction that is for or against what is going on in the ELCA, i.e. are they the progressives or the traditionalists? Very confusing....
5/7/2013 04:07:09 am
Mick, here is a good synopsis of all that has happened. It should clear up some of your questions.
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Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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